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Located in the South East of England, Hampshire is the biggest county in the district and home to two national parks: the South Downs National Park and the New Forest National Park.
The New Forest possesses some of South East England’s most picturesque countryside and wildlife, boasting three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a number of designated wildlife sites, including Holly Hill Woodland Park, Crabtree Plantation and Winchester City Mill to name a few.
With all this nature and open space, this would undoubtedly mean it is also home to an abundance of species, including the bat.
The county of Hampshire is privileged enough to have sightings for all the UK’s 17 breeding species of bat. This includes the more common species of bat like the Brown Long-Eared bat and Pipistrelles, but also home to the much rarer breeds such as the Bechstein’s and Barbastelle bat.
The New Forest and the South Downs: An Abundance of Natural Bat Habitat
The New Forest itself is a refuge for bats, with 16 out of the 17 UK species residing there. In the New Forest, they research the bat species native to the area.
They do this by observing the frequency of the echolocation sounds, each bat makes a different frequency. This sound allows the different species to be identified. The Hampshire Bat Group research and assess bats and their distribution and have been conducting bat assessments since 2006.
The group continue to collect their data and records annually throughout the county and there are still many areas left undiscovered that need investigating to find out more about the populations, both in the towns and villages and the countryside of Hampshire.
Bats feed on a variety of insects including mosquitos, gnats, moths and butterflies. During the summer months, bats require a dry and warm bat roost to raise their offspring in – something the New Forest can provide in the form of tree rot holes in the woodland.
This is why, where attainable, the New Forest try to retain standing dead trees as they are ideal roosting habitats for bats and their prey. Bats are the only species of mammal that can fly, meaning they don’t stay in one location and can move bat roosts multiple times in one year.
Consequently, bats could decide to spread their wings and come to roost in trees, outhouses and even in roof cavities in your home. With bats being a protected species, this means that by law it is a criminal offence to interfere, disturb or destroy bat roosts under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2019.
If you’re needing planning permission from a local authority or are planning on removing an old tree in your garden, for example, this is where you will have to consider an ecologist.
Requirements for Ecological Assessments If You’re Applying for Planning Permission in Hampshire
For most planning applications, local planning authorities including Hampshire County Council require a proposal of an ecological statement or assessment. This differs in the kind and extent dependant on the potential for impact, destruction or interference and also the size of the development. However, ecological surveys are available to private, residential and commercial developers.
This should be carried out by a qualified ecologist, who will come out and conduct an initial scoping bat survey of your subject property or trees.
A Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) or phase 1 bat survey consists of an ecologist observing for signs of bats. This includes looking for droppings – these typically look like mouse droppings, the only difference with bat droppings is that they will crumble to dust under pressure.
Other signs to look out for are deep cavities in trees and wall voids, where they could crawl into for shelter. These are an ideal environment for bats due to them being warm and dark.
What Happens Next?
If there is evidence of these indicators, a Bat Emergence and Re-Entry Survey (BERS) or phase 2 bat survey will need to be conducted. This kind of low cost bat survey is undertaken either at dusk or dawn and would include the use of infrared, thermal imaging cameras, DNA analysis and echolocation, and general observation by an ecologist of the suspected habitat to detect bat activity and watch whether or not bats are flying in and out of the location. It is also a type of bat survey with seasonal constraints and can only be carried out between May and September.
After both of these bat surveys are carried out, your ecologist will deliver a bat report for yourself and the corresponding local planning authority to inform you of the next steps to carry out. At this point, it would be the right place for the ecologist to determine whether further surveys are required based on evidence of protected species present on the site. As with phase 1 bat surveys, approaching the bat survey in this way will avoid delays in the works schedule of the project.
If you want to learn more about bat surveys in Hampshire, you could join the Hampshire Bat Group on Facebook, or give Arbtech’s senior ecological consultants, Natalie Evans and Joe Slade, a call. Both Natalie and Joe live and work in Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and beyond, providing development professionals with timely advice and mitigation reports for affordable prices to remove any bat survey objections to their planning applications.
As with all of our ecologists, they are knowledgeable of local ecology, effective in providing protected species surveys and further survey work, and are aware of any constraints and guidance from the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England. Get in touch with us using the form below or call us for a free quote based on your site and project, and we can work with you at an early stage if bat surveys or further surveys are required to get your planning application accepted.